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May 17, 2007

Nigeria’s recent elections were a terrible setback for democracy, marked by widespread
rigging, ballot stuffing, fraud, violent thuggery, administrative chaos and critical delays.
Brazen and systematic collusion among the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the
Independent National Election Commission (INEC), and local security cemented PDP
single party dominance. These outcomes have left Nigerians cynical and pessimistic
about Nigeria’s democratic prospects, and provoked outrage, widespread calls for reform
and disturbing evidence of popular disengagement.

President-elect Yar’Adua will assume power on May 29 with weak legitimacy and
credibility, and questionable stability and governing capacity. He will confront deep
doubts that under his leadership Nigeria will be able to carry forward a democratic
agenda, internal conflict resolution in the Niger Delta and elsewhere, economic reform
and anti-corruption efforts, and continental leadership to promote democratic norms and
efforts to end chronic internal wars in places such as Darfur. Debate will persist over
whether this failed election will invite further domestic violence and instability, with
broader consequences across Africa. From a U.S. perspective, there is grave concern that
Nigeria’s failed elections will compromise the U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relationship and
place at-risk rising U.S. interests in Nigeria and in Africa at-large.

The U.S. government should approach the Yar’Adua administration with considerable
caution and put it on notice that:

1. The elections were a terrible outcome that has damaged democracy’s prospects in
Nigeria and set back Nigeria’s reputation in the United States.
2. The new leadership must take urgent steps to establish credibility and regain
international support and cooperation. Prospects for full and constructive bilateral
cooperation will depend on concrete and rapid progress in several critical areas:

• Full restoration of civil liberties and political rights.

• Incorporation of opposition figures into national policy debate.
• Open dialogues with civil society and political groups on the institutional
failings of the Fourth Republic
• Replacement of INEC’s discredited leadership and overhaul of the
electoral system, including new legislation, registration, and electoral
procedures, and the creation of independent oversight and monitoring
entities for future elections.
• Immediate corrective action of flagrant election outcomes in such states as
Ondo, Edo and Ekiti.
• Urgent action to empower and accelerate the work of electoral tribunals.
• Reinvigoration of anti-corruption campaigns and appointment of a new
and credible economic reform team.
• Launch of a major initiative on the Niger Delta, including a new political
dispensation and mechanisms for promoting accountable, community-
based development.
• Designation of a senior official empowered to work with the United States
and others on Darfur and other pressing security challenges in Africa.

During the upcoming transition, Washington should expand its engagement

with Nigeria’s civic actors and the institutions of the judiciary and the
National Assembly, the latter with special emphasis on fulfilling constitutional
responsibilities for national finances. If the Yar’Adua government
systematically improves its legitimacy and credibility within Nigeria,
Washington should consider a new program of international support for
Nigeria, including assistance to the Delta, introduction of Millennium
Challenge Corporation transition assistance, and support of expanded
Nigerian power generation and other infrastructure. Washington should make
clear that the U.S. looks to Nigeria to effect major reforms so as to
reinvigorate its democracy and leadership.

Richard Joseph
Northwestern University

Darren Kew
University of Massachusetts Boston

Peter M. Lewis
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Ambassador Princeton Lyman

Council on Foreign Relations

J. Stephen Morrison
Center for Strategic and International Studies

John Paden
George Mason University